The Foreign Ministry confirmed a Haaretz report Friday that Israel will in the coming weeks open an office in Abu Dhabi accredited to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA).
According to the report, also confirmed by the ministry, Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold was in the United Arab Emirates capital this week taking part in IRENA’s biannual meeting and also discussing the opening of the Israeli mission.
While in the past Israel has had trade delegations in Qatar, Oman, Morocco and Tunisia, this would be the first time Israel would have any type of formal presence in the UAE.
Officials stressed that the mission is a representation to IRENA, and not a bilateral embassy to the UAE. It would be similar to a country without diplomatic relations with the United States opening a mission to the UN in New York.
Nevertheless, the opening of the mission comes at a time when both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Gold have spoken about a unique confluence of interests between Israel and the moderate Arab states who are facing similar threats: Iran and radical Islam.
Foreign Ministry officials confirmed that Israeli diplomat Rami Hatan will head the delegation.
IRENA describes itself as an intergovernmental organization – with some 144 full members – that supports countries in their transition to a sustainable energy future. It was created six years ago, and on two occasions since then – in 2010 and 2014 – Israeli ministers attended an IRENA conference in Abu Dhabi.
Silvan Shalom, then Israel’s Energy, Water and National Infrastructures Minister, attended the conference in 2014 and told The Jerusalem Post at the time that Israel wanted to see a permanent Israeli delegate based in Abu Dhabi as a permanent representative to IRENA.
“We would like to have full representation here,” Shalom said at the time. “Every country has a mission with diplomats who live here. When they came to the decision to move the headquarters to Abu Dhabi, they made sure with the authorities that they would give every country the option to be here – to be here not only for the convention but to be here permanently.”
Shalom’s visit was the first Israeli delegation visiting the UAE since the assassination of Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on January 19, 2010 in Dubai. That assassination came just days after Shalom’s predecessor, Uzi Landau, became the first Israeli minister to visit the UAE to attend an IRENA conference. Like Abu Dhabi, Dubai is one of the seven emirates that make up the UAE.
Following Shalom’s visit, the UAE’s Foreign Minister Anwar Mohammad Gargash said that the “UAE has been able, through a delicate balance, to differentiate between Israel’s membership in IRENA and the normalization of bilateral ties which Israel has been seeking.”